The most common symptoms of foraminal stenosis can be uncomfortable, but the discomfort can usually be managed through a combination of medications, exercises and lifestyle changes. Individuals who experience lower back pain and tingling sensations in their legs, for instance, can often achieve relief by taking ibuprofen, applying a hot pack to the painful area or participating in physical therapy. However, there are a few serious (but less common) complications that can occur as well.
One of the more uncommon complications of foraminal stenosis is paralysis, which only occurs in a small number of cases. To understand how foraminal stenosis can potentially interfere with muscle function, it can be helpful to first learn about the anatomy of the spine.
What is foraminal stenosis?
Foraminal stenosis is a condition in which the foramen — small openings between spinal bones through which nerve roots pass — become obstructed. This obstruction usually occurs due to a specific trigger, such as a bone spur or herniated disc pressing against a vertebra and causing a subtle shift in its positioning.
When a foramina is blocked, the nerves and nerve roots inside it can become pinched. A compressed nerve can send a variety of pain signals throughout the body. It can also cause weakness in various muscle groups along the path of the nerve. Additionally, if the compression is very severe and goes untreated for a prolonged period of time, it can potentially lead to irreversible nerve damage and/or paralysis.
How is foraminal stenosis treated?
Conservative therapies such as stretches and medications can relieve the symptoms of foraminal stenosis, but they can’t address the issue at its source. To fully decompress a nerve, it may take surgery, such as a foraminotomy — a procedure that widens the openings where nerve roots branch away from the spine. Surgery may be recommended to address major complications, such as a loss of function in the hands or feet.
At USA Spine Care, we perform minimally invasive surgery for patients with foraminal stenosis and other degenerative spine conditions. To find out if you’re a candidate, you can request a free MRI review.* For more information, contact us today.
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